FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Established on the first day of District Attorney Melinda Katz’s administration, the Conviction Integrity Unit (“CIU”) reviews past convictions where there are credible claims of actual innocence or wrongful conviction. CIU Director Bryce Benjet has a long track record of identifying and proving cases of actual innocence, and the unit is staffed by seasoned attorneys and criminal investigators. A community advisory board will meet regularly with the CIU Director and DA Katz to provide guidance on policy matters affecting this important work. The CIU is a separate division of the District Attorney’s Office which reports directly to the District Attorney.
Message From District Attorney Katz: “The Conviction Integrity Unit is an important aspect of our efforts to reform the criminal justice system in Queens. The job of the District Attorney is to ensure that justice is done, not ensure that someone is jailed for a crime whether they are the guilty party or not. Every wrongful conviction not only destroys the life of the individual wrongly convicted and his or her family, but also further undermines everyone’s faith in our criminal justice system. The work of the Conviction Integrity Unit also serves a vital law enforcement function for both victims and public safety, because if the wrong person is convicted, the actual perpetrator has not been brought to justice.”
The CIU reinvestigates cases where a person has been convicted of a crime in Queens County and presents a credible claim that they are actually innocent or were otherwise wrongly convicted. The CIU’s investigation and decisions by the District Attorney on CIU matters are based only on an independent assessment of the facts and the law. A defendant’s choice of counsel, media coverage, or political influence from any source plays no role in the consideration of cases presented to the CIU.
How do I submit a case for review?
Requests for the CIU to review a case must be submitted by the convicted person or their attorney in writing. Persons not represented by counsel should complete the CIU Intake Form which can be downloaded below.
The CIU Intake Form and other correspondence should be mailed or hand delivered to:Conviction Integrity Unit
Queens County District Attorney's Office
125-01 Queens Blvd.
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
The CIU will also accept submissions by email sent to: CIU@queensda.org. Please be aware that our system cannot receive emails 20MB or larger.
All submissions should include a physical address for the Conviction Integrity Unit to contact you by mail. Due to the volume of submissions, please do not contact the office by phone.
How will the CIU consider requests for review?
Submissions to the CIU will be reviewed along with other information relating to the case such as appellate opinions, legal briefs, and other documents. This initial evaluation will take time. The CIU may correspond with convicted persons or their attorneys to clarify issues or seek additional information. The convicted person or their attorney will be informed in writing of the CIU’s decision whether or not to open an investigation into the case.
What types of cases will be reviewed?
The CIU will consider a request to review any criminal conviction obtained by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office. However, priority may be given to persons who are incarcerated or on parole or who stand convicted of serious felonies.
Is the CIU process an appeal?
An investigation by the CIU is not an appeal or other post-conviction proceeding (such as a petition under Section 440 of the Criminal Procedure Law). A submission to the CIU does not extend any appellate timelines and does not toll the statute of limitations for seeking federal habeas relief.
Because the conviction review process is not an adversarial proceeding, the CIU may defer acting on a submission if an appeal or other post-conviction proceeding is filed or pending. Convicted persons should consult with an attorney to decide whether to pursue their case in court.
What happens if the CIU opens an investigation into a case?
Where there is a credible claim of actual innocence or other wrongful conviction, the CIU will open an investigation into the case. The CIU will conduct a thorough and deliberate investigation of the crime and the integrity of the evidence used to convict the defendant. Where appropriate, this investigation will be done in coordination with defense counsel. The CIU’s investigation may include DNA, fingerprint, or other relevant forensic testing. As part of the investigation, information regarding the case will be shared by both sides pursuant to an agreement with defense counsel.
The CIU’s investigation is conducted by assistant district attorneys, staff and detectives with the Queens County District Attorney’s Office. The CIU does not represent the convicted person.
How are cases resolved?
If, at the conclusion of the CIU’s investigation, the District Attorney determines that a person is actually innocent or was otherwise wrongfully convicted, we will seek to resolve the case by agreement utilizing appropriate legal and constitutional grounds for relief. Every case is different. And depending on the circumstances, the District Attorney may dismiss the case, enter into a plea agreement, or seek to retry the defendant.
The CIU will not communicate to the convicted person or defense counsel any preliminary conclusions or recommendations made from the investigation and will not discuss the contents or timing of the District Attorney’s deliberation on the case.
How are cases rejected?
A submission will be rejected if (1) the CIU determines that no credible claim of actual innocence or wrongful conviction can be made or (2) the CIU’s investigation does not substantiate the convicted person’s claim. Rejections will be communicated to the convicted person or their attorney in writing. There is no appeal procedure of a decision by the CIU to reject a case. If a convicted person disagrees with the conclusions of the CIU, they are free to file a post-conviction challenge to their conviction in court pursuant to applicable state and federal law.